Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal late Monday castigated Republican lawmakers for their life-threatening refusal to wear face coverings and demanded that they be held to account after the Washington Democrat tested positive for Covid-19, a diagnosis that came after she was forced to hide in a room with GOP colleagues who declined to wear masks as a violent pro-Trump mob rampaged through the U.S. Capitol last week.
"This is not a joke. Our lives and our livelihoods are at risk, and anyone who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable for endangering our lives because of their selfish idiocy."
—Rep. Pramila Jayapal
In a furious statement, Jayapal slammed Republican lawmakers for "cruelly and selfishly" refusing to "take the bare minimum Covid-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic—creating a superspreader event on top of a domestic terrorist attack."
"Too many Republicans have refused to take this pandemic and virus seriously, and in doing so, they endanger everyone around them," said the Washington Democrat, who was holed up for hours in a secured room with more than 100 people during the mob attack.
Jayapal pointed to video footage published by Punchbowl News showing Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Michael Cloud (Texas), and others in the room rejecting surgical masks offered by Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.).
Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, called for "serious fines to be immediately levied on every single member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol" and said that any lawmaker who declines to put on a face covering "should be immediately removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms."
"This is not a joke," said Jayapal. "Our lives and our livelihoods are at risk, and anyone who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable for endangering our lives because of their selfish idiocy."
Jayapal's positive coronavirus test came hours after Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), a 75-year-old cancer survivor, announced her Covid-19 diagnosis Monday and said she believes she was exposed "during protective isolation in the U.S. Capitol building as a result of insurrectionist riots."
"While I feel OK, on my doctor's advice I'm on my way to a local hospital for monoclonal antibody treatment," Coleman tweeted late Monday afternoon. "I thank you for the outpouring of supportive messages. The love you've sent has been overwhelming. Please, wear a mask and social distance."
Jayapal, who told The Cut last week that she decided to quarantine following the Capitol lockdown out of fear of a superspreader event, was among those who voiced outrage in response to news of Coleman's positive test, tweeting that "we must hold GOP to the rules on the floor and in the Capitol."
"If they want to play Roulette with their own lives, go for it," Jayapal said. "But no one should be allowed on the floor or in rooms in violation of our rules and public health. We are at risk because of them. Follow the rules or leave."